According to a new study from Brussels, 23 per cent of the Portuguese population is regularly resorting to benzodiazepine, a prescribed tranquilliser, making the country Europe’s second biggest consumer of this drug. The report’s findings appear to be corroborated by another study carried out in Portugal from the National Institute of Pharmacy and Medicine, which has revealed that the consumption of tranquillisers increased 26 per cent between 1995 and 2001. There was also a steep rise in the use of substances with the highest risk of dependency. The study particularly warns of the “elevated use” of two benzodiazepine drugs – alprazolan and lorazepam – both of which have a “high potential for abuse” on the part of users. The report warns that, “in spite of being medications with favourable reports… they cause physical and psychological dependency and are open to abuse, either on their own, or in combination with other illegal drugs”. The report warns that the main danger of these drugs arises when they are used inappropriately, over a long period of time and by suicidal patients or those who are receiving repeat prescriptions from different doctors. Another danger of these pills is that they can cause patients, particularly the elderly, to suffer accidents at home and on the roads.